bitch hook n. a curved metal device used with a chain to hold or secure lumber or other things, or to brake a sled on descents. Also bitch link. Editorial Note: The unpublished manuscript for the Lexicon of Trade Jargon (circa 1938-39, now at the Library of Congress) includes in its section on “Lumber Workers’ Slang and Jargon” an entry for bitch chain and defines it as a “Heavy, short chain with hook and ring, used to fasten the lower end of a ‘gin pole’ (q.v.) to a sled or car when loading logs.” A gin-pole is defined there as “a small log.” Elsewhere, in a section under “Machinists’ and Machine Manufacture Workers’ Slang and Jargon,” bitch and bitch dog are defined as a “Special clamp used to hold work on a lathe.” The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English includes an entry for the synonym bitch link, “In logging: a pear-shaped link on the end of a chain, larger and heavier than other links. When the chain is run through an opening a choker can be looped through this link to secure it.”  The Oxford English Dictionary, with little elaboration, has an entry for bitch (also spelled beche or biche) that is possibly related. It is defined in citations as a mining tool used during boring for holding and bringing up (broken) rods. A bêche in French is a spade or garden fork (a pitchfork). (source: Double-Tongued Dictionary)

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  1. gerard says:

    Given the use of the term in logging, French “buche” (= “log”) is a far more likely origin than “beche”. Pronunciation’s closer, too.


  2. I considered that, but I wondered: isn’t another tool more likely an origin than a log? Also, alternate spellings for the term found in OED citations do not include “buche.” The pronunciation of the “ch” in French is problematic, in any case, for either bêche or buche to be the origin of the term. The connection to French is tenuous.

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